Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 31, 2010
Text: Luke 4:31-44

This morning our Lord unleashes a full-fledged frontal assault on sin, death, and the devil. He preaches in the synagogues. His Word possesses authority, divine authority, the authority of God Himself. And He demonstrates that authority by healing diseases, reversing the curse of sin’s wages, reversing death. Indeed, so authoritative is His Word that the unclean spirits, the demons, confess Him to be “the Holy One of God” (Luke 4:34; ESV), “the Son of God” (v. 41), and at His Word, the demons must flee. They must submit to His will, for though one demon be stronger than the whole world (Luther), Jesus is stronger than all demons combined. For this Jesus of Nazareth is God in human flesh. It is an epiphany of epic proportions: This is no mere holy man, and certainly no magician. This is the promised One who comes to crush the head of the old wily serpent. Why, only God can do that! Only God can conquer Satan! Precisely. Our Lord performs these signs that we may have no doubt. Here is your God, the Man, Christ Jesus. He comes to heal our diseases and free us from our bondage to sin, death, and the devil. He comes to bear our iniquity. He comes to be our Savior.

God knows that we live in the midst of so many dangers that in our frailty we cannot stand upright (collect). And so He sent His Son. God knew that the people of Capernaum in our Gospel lesson were in the midst of so many dangers that in their frailty, because they are made of the same fallen flesh that we are, could not stand upright either. And so He sent His Son. He sent His Son, Jesus, into their midst, into the midst of their mess, into the midst of their disease, into the midst of their death. He sent His Son, Jesus, into the midst of a people in bondage to the devil. He sent His Son to deliver them. Jesus comes into the midst of the people of Capernaum with His gracious presence, and He speaks to them His gracious Word. He preaches in their synagogue. And His Word brings healing. It is a Word with authority, divine authority, the Word of God that is performative, that always accomplishes what it says. He preaches. And the people are astonished. And then there is this confrontation. One who is possessed by an “unclean demon” (v. 33) cries out with a loud voice: “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God” (v. 34). You see, the demon cannot abide Jesus’ presence. The demon cannot abide Jesus’ gracious Word. For that Word brings healing and drives out the devil. The Word of God is torture to the devil and his demons. Notice, even the demon must confess who Jesus is! It’s a little foretaste of that day when, at the Name of Jesus, every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11). That means demons, too. And so Jesus speaks His authoritative Word: “Be silent and come out of him!” (Luke 4:35). The demon must obey. He tries to go down fighting. He throws the possessed man to the ground. The demon attempts to do as much damage as possible on his way out of town. Nothing doing when Jesus is there. The man is unharmed. And the people are amazed. “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” (v. 36).

Jesus comes to us in the midst of our dangers and frailty. He speaks His authoritative Word, His performative Word, and the result is healing. The result is that sickness and death and devil cannot abide the presence and Word of the One come to forgive sin and restore humanity. The result is that sickness and Satan must flee. God knows our frailty and the great dangers in which we live. So He sends His Son. He sends His Son in human flesh into the midst of our mess, our disease, our death. He sends His Son to carry our griefs and sorrows, to bear in His body our infirmities. He sends His Son where we are, in bondage to the devil. He sends His Son to deliver us. And our Lord Jesus delivers us precisely by submitting Himself to death, even death on a cross. Our healing is in His Wounds. For every disease, every sickness, every injury, every death, is a result of sin. It is a result of the fact that every one of us is a sinner. The wages of sin is death. And Jesus cures you of the disease of sin by His death on the cross, for you, for your forgiveness. The physical healing in our text is not the point. The physical healings are signs, visible testimonies to the authority of Jesus’ Word. They are signs that Jesus is who He says He is, that He is God in the flesh. The point of our text is the spiritual healing that Jesus imparts in His blessed Word.

Jesus may not heal you when you have a fever, as He did Peter’s mother-in-law. You may die from that fever. And even if He does heal you of that fever (and remember, every healing is ultimately from Jesus, a reminder of His resurrection, and our resurrection to come in Him, even when the healing is not what we might consider “miraculous”)… even if He does heal you of that fever, one day you will die. One day you will not be healed, not physically, not yet at least. And yet, in Christ, you really are healed. Because Jesus has healed you of your main disease, sin. Sin is the disease that causes every other ailment, and the blood of Christ covers all sin, cures you of all sin and its consequences. And so in Christ you are healed, given eternal life, even in the midst of death. And the reality is that you will also be healed physically on the Last Day, when you are raised from the dead, in your own perfect resurrection body, without fevers, without H1N1, without the common cold, without heart disease, without injuries, in the perfect health and image of Christ’s resurrection body.

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit in the synagogue and heals Peter’s mother-in-law, and the reports about Him spread all throughout the surrounding region. The people gather in droves that Saturday evening so that Jesus can heal them of every kind of disease and cast out their demons. And with great compassion, Jesus extends His healing hand. He stays up all night, laying His hands upon them, each one individually, delivering them from their afflictions. But the people had missed the point. The point is not the healing, but the preaching, to which the healing testifies. And so, after many hours of healing the people and driving out demons, Jesus seeks a solitary place for rest and for prayer, for communion with the heavenly Father. The people of Capernaum find Him and beg Him to stay. But they only want more miracles. They don’t understand that Jesus must preach. “(H)e said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose’” (v. 43). Jesus was sent to preach, and the content of His sermon is Himself.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t be like the people in our text. Don’t get lost in the signs. Don’t beg Jesus to stay in your midst only to heal your outward, physical circumstances. It is not wrong to ask Jesus for physical healing. You should do so. But you should also realize that ultimately your healing comes from His Word, whether or not He physically heals you before the resurrection. Jesus came to preach! And that is the healing you need. You need His preaching. You need His Word. You need His audible Word in Scripture and absolution and sermon. You need His visible Word in Baptism and Supper. His Word is the medicine of immortality. His Word brings you healing, life, heaven, resurrection. His Word brings you forgiveness. It is by His Word that Jesus comes into our midst. By His Word Jesus comes into the midst of our dangers and our frailty and He grants us strength and protection, to support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations (collect). By His Word Jesus comes and He extends His healing hand to each one of us individually, making us clean, driving the devil far from us, driving away the disease of sin with His blood-bought forgiveness, granting us eternal life.

Jesus is victorious over all our enemies, over sin, over death, over hell, over Satan and his minions. Jesus is victorious precisely in His death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. And in His mighty Word, His authoritative Word, His performative Word, Jesus imparts that victory, that healing, to us. And so we, too, confess Jesus to be the Holy One, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, only unlike the demons, we confess it in faith, trust, that Jesus has come to save us. And we gather here in this place to hear the preaching, the preaching of Jesus Christ, and so we are healed, forgiven, made clean, made whole. And in this way, in this encounter with the Word preached, we encounter nothing less than the living God in the flesh come to save us. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Third Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
St. Timothy, Pastor and Confessor
The Baptism of Chloe Anna Ruth Young and Layla Kaye Louise Young
January 24, 2010
Text: Neh. 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; Luke 4:16-30

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). In this world of darkness, the Word of the Lord shines and shows us the way. It guides us in the way of truth. It guides us in the way of Christ. It leads us along the path of righteousness, the path of the cross, the path of eternal life. It shines upon every stumbling block and every peril so that we can mark and avoid them. It exposes sin and false doctrine. It exposes the lies and work of the devil. In the darkness, our enemy can hide and prowl and pursue us and set his traps. But when Christ, who is the Light of the world, shines in the darkness, the enemy must flee and we see his traps for what they are. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5). It’s not for lack of trying. The darkness ever assaults that Light and the people of the Light. The darkness ever tries to silence the Word, silence preaching, entice the people of the Light away from the Light of the Word, away from the Church, away from the Sacraments, and when it has enticed them away, it seeks to hold them in its dark, cold clutches. But where the Light of Christ, His Word, the Light that is Christ, the Word made flesh, shines, there the darkness is wholly scattered.

This morning in our readings we see fallen humanity groping in darkness, and we see fallen humans transformed into repentant believers by the Light of God’s Word, the Holy Spirit enlightening them with His gifts. The people of Nazareth behold the Light of Christ shining as He preaches His Word in their synagogue. But they turn away, turn back to the darkness of unbelief, for the Light does not force anyone to bask in its glow. The children of Israel in our Old Testament lesson, however, hear once again, many of them for the first time, the Word of the Book of the Law, better translated “Torah,” teaching, the books of Moses, and they weep and lament. But their weeping is turned to joy as Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the scribe and the Levites proclaim the Word of the Lord that scatters the darkness. This morning we hear the Word of the Lord. This morning the Word of the Lord made flesh comes among us with His sacramental Word, Words and water for two brand new children of God, Chloe and Layla, and Words and bread and wine, the feast of His body and blood for the congregation of God here present. And the question is, how do we receive it? Because the Light of the Word does not force anyone to bask in its glow. Do we turn away, back to the more comfortable darkness of sin and unbelief? The darkness is more comfortable because it hides our sinfulness, whereas the Light exposes our sin and death and deals with it in the crucifixion and death of Christ. The Light exposes us as sinners for the purpose of healing us. But the darkness hides us. No one has to know we are sinners, and we don’t have to admit it even to ourselves. But one day all that is hidden in darkness will be exposed, revealed, in the Day of Judgment, and on that day there is no healing for those who refused it in this earthly life. So how to receive the Light of the Word… Turn away? Or walk in the light, having our sin exposed and repenting, believing in Christ alone for forgiveness and mercy?

The people of Nazareth hear the Word proclaimed by Jesus with great joy at first. Jesus, the hometown boy made good, opens the scroll to the 61st Chapter of Isaiah the Prophet and reads these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19; ESV. Cf. Is. 61:1-2). Then He sits down to preach, as is the custom in the synagogue, and His sermon is simple and to the point: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). That is to say, “Today is the age of Messiah. I AM Messiah. I AM the Christ. I come in the Holy Spirit to impart Him to you and bring you to faith. I come with the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, release from sin’s oppression, and to give you spiritual sight, that you who were born spiritually blind may see me for who I am, and seeing, believe.” It is an epiphany, a manifestation of the truth that Jesus is God in the flesh come to save His people, if only the people will hear it and believe it. They are wowed by their favorite son, at least at first. “And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming out of his mouth” (v. 22). Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Why, I remember Him when He was still a lad in diapers. Well done, well done. But then the preaching gets hard. Jesus knows the secret thoughts of their heart. “I know what you will say next to me,” says Jesus. “‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well” (v. 23). “Show us a miracle, you will say. But I tell you the miracles are only signs that testify to the Word. Dear members of the synagogue, you have the Word, and the Word is enough for you. The Word is the Light of truth. The Word is the Light that shows you that I AM the Messiah. Believe the Word, and do not look for a magic show for your own amusement.” “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his home town” (v. 24).

Why does Jesus preach such a harsh Word? It is to bring the people of Nazareth to repentance. It is to rend their hearts, to bring their sin to light that it might be healed, forgiven by the blood of Christ, and to direct them instead to the Light of God’s sure Word, the Light that bears testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Light that is our Lord Jesus Christ. But how do the people of Nazareth receive that Light? They turn back to the darkness of unbelief. They seek to kill Jesus, to snuff out the Light, to throw Him off the cliff. They are unsuccessful. He will be killed, but not today, not by being thrown off a cliff. The cross is His end, His goal. But here in Nazareth, the hometown of the Savior, the Light is refused. The darkness is more comfortable. And so, though the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is for them, the payment for their every sin, including the sin of turning away from the Light, they cannot receive its benefits, because the saving benefits of Christ’s death can only be received by faith, conveyed by the Light of the Word of the Lord.

How different is the reaction of the children of Israel in our Old Testament lesson? Nehemiah assembles a solemn assembly of the nation, at which Ezra the scribe reads the Book of the Law and the Levites preach its meaning to the people, much like I’m doing now. The people stand for the reading of the Word (Neh. 8:5), much like we stand for the reading of the Holy Gospel. The people listen attentively as the Word is read and the sermons are preached (vv. 3, 8). It is an all-day affair, and no one complains about the length of the service. And as the people hear the Words of the Torah, much of it hard, bringing to light their sins and their sinful condition, what do the people do? They weep. They mourn. They repent. They do not turn away from the Light. The Holy Spirit brings them to faith, converts them by convicting them with the Law and calling them to faith by the Gospel, putting them to death and making them alive again, and so their mourning turns to joy. The Word brings forgiveness, release from their captivity to sin. The Word brings spiritual sight, that they may see their salvation in the mercy of the Lord alone. The Word brings consolation. The Word brings great joy, and as Nehemiah says to the people, and so also to us this morning, “the joy of the LORD is your strength” (v. 10). For the Word of the Lord brings Christ, and all the benefits of His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. The Word makes us God’s own children in Christ Jesus. The Word brings salvation, as it scatters the darkness. The Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

So how do we receive that Light? Do we turn away, back to the darkness of our sin and unbelief, and ultimately of death and eternal condemnation? God forbid! By no means! May it never be! We who have been called to the Light of Christ, may we ever bask in that Light by continual, daily contact with His Word. And may we recognize that here in this place is Christ, the Word made flesh, among us, where He has promised to be, for us, for our salvation. Here He speaks His Word, Law and Gospel, to turn our hearts from sin to faith, and here He speaks His absolution, His forgiveness for all our sins. Here He washes us, as we witnessed this morning with the twins, Chloe and Layla, as they were given new birth by the Holy Spirit in the washing of water with the Word. They, too, have come into the Light of Christ. Here our Lord Jesus places His Light into our bodies in His holy Supper. By the power of God, and His grace alone, we remain in the Light of Christ, repenting of our sins, confessing them, receiving and believing in His Word of forgiveness. That is to say, we live the baptismal life. And so we live in the Light, live in the Word, live in Christ. His Word brings great joy, and, beloved in the Lord, His joy is our strength. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Second Sunday after the Epiphany (C)
January 17, 2010
Text: John 2:1-11

The Church is the holy Bride of Christ, whom He bought with His own blood. For her He lived. For her life He died. For her He is risen and lives and reigns to all eternity. It is He who sanctifies her and cleanses her by the washing of water with the Word, that He might present her to Himself without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:26-27). As a gentle and loving husband, He woos her and tends her and gives His all for her. He spreads a Table before her. Her cup runneth over. He nourishes her with His own body and blood. There is no good that He withholds from His beloved Bride. She is His Body. She is His own, engraved on the palms of His hands. And His banner over her is love (Song of Solomon 2:4). As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so does God in the flesh rejoice over His Bride, the Church (Is. 62:5).

We behold the great love of our Bridegroom, our Savior Jesus Christ, for us, His holy Church, in the Gospel lesson this morning. Here Jesus is with His disciples at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. His mother is present. It is probably one of her relatives who is getting married. And a wedding in the ancient world is not an afternoon affair, but a week-long celebration complete with feasting and drinking and much merriment. The couple is expected to provide the food and the drink for the whole town and all the extended family. But at this wedding there is this terrible embarrassment: The wine has run out. Mary comes to Jesus. “They have no wine,” she says matter-of-factly (John 2:3; ESV). “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” Jesus responds (v. 4). “My hour has not yet come.” What sounds to us like a disrespectful rebuke and refusal to help is actually an opportunity for Mary to confess the faith to the servants and to us. In spite of the fact that Jesus has not yet performed a sign, a miracle, Mary believes He will help. And so she says to the servants, and to us, “Do whatever he tells you” (v. 5). Even when it seems like Jesus is ignoring your request, do whatever He tells you. Believe whatever He says. It is neither safe nor right to stray from His Word. His Word alone can direct you, for in His Word He delivers Himself with all His grace and blessings. And what does Jesus do? He provides. He cannot help but do otherwise. He provides for the couple, provides for His mother, provides for the guests, provides for us. “Take those six stone jars, the twenty or thirty gallon ones, those jars of the Law of Moses, made for the Jewish rites of purification, and fill them with water. And then ladle some out and give it to the master of the feast.” The servants are undoubtedly scratching their heads. What is this supposed to accomplish? But Mary told them to do whatever He says. So they do it. And when they give some to the master of the feast, behold, it is wine! It is very good wine! It is the best wine! And there is enough for the rest of the celebration and then some! The master of the feast finds the groom and says, “There must be some mistake! This is the best wine! This is not the way it’s supposed to work. We’re supposed to get the guests good and tipsy on the best wine first, and then we serve cheap stuff when they don’t know any better. But you have it backwards!”

There is nothing but the best when Jesus provides. The wine is His gift. It is a gift of His love. He brings joy and celebration to the people, and the honor of His own presence at this wedding where He performs the first of His signs and manifests His glory. It is an epiphany! Jesus is God in the flesh. He who created the stone for the jars and the water to put in them and the grapes and the fermentation process miraculously makes the very best of wine in plenty for His people. The wine is a sign that Messiah has come. The Prophet Isaiah writes, “On this mountain [Mt. Zion] the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (25:6). The sign is performed and Jesus’ disciples believe in Him (John 2:11). The sign is performed that you may believe, and believing, have eternal life.

Beloved in the Lord, by holy Baptism, you are the holy and precious Bride of Christ, the holy Church, bought with His blood, made clean and whole. It was not always so. Before our Lord and Bridegroom had mercy on us we were not clean, not holy, but sinful, wretched, perverted, lost. God did not create us this way. He created us to be a holy and faithful Bride, but in the sin of Adam and Eve, all of humanity fell into sin, and ever since we have been an unholy, unfaithful, adulterous Bride. The Prophet Hosea served as a living picture of this sad reality in his own life. God told him to take unto himself a prostitute, Gomer, for a wife. Hosea loved his wife. He gave her nothing but the very best. He took this outcast from society and made her respectable, a preacher’s wife even. But Gomer was unfaithful to Hosea. She continued her life of prostitution. She ran away from him and from their children to sell her body for money. Not just one other man… many men. And she had no plan to come back. Can you imagine Hosea’s heartbreak? What would you have done in Hosea’s place? According to the Law of Moses, Hosea had every right to have Gomer stoned to death. At the very least we would expect Hosea to leave her, abandon her into her sin and unfaithfulness. But remember, Hosea is a living picture of our gracious God and His relationship to His Bride, Israel, the holy Church. What does Hosea do? He buys her back! The Lord says to him, “Go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods” (Hos. 3:1). “So I bought her,” writes Hosea, “for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley” (v. 2). What must Gomer have thought of her husband? There can be only one of two conclusions: “Either he’s a fool, or he really does love me.” Of course it is the second conclusion that is true. And notice here that love creates its object. There is nothing loveable about Gomer. Hosea loves her by grace, by his own gracious decision, and in mercy, redeems her.

And so God comes to us, unfaithful prostitutes that we are, adulterous, worshiping other gods, the gods of money and sex and prestige and power, the god of self, and He buys us back. Not for fifteen shekels and some barley. Not with gold or silver. With His holy, precious blood, and His innocent suffering and death. Jesus, God in the flesh, our Bridegroom, so loves His Bride, the Church, that even after she is unfaithful, even after she forsakes Him for others, even in the midst of her adultery and idolatry, He sheds His blood for her. He could rightly have us condemned to eternal death in hell. He could abandon us into our sin. But He doesn’t. He redeems us. He buys us back. There can be only one of two conclusions. He could be a fool, but such an assertion would be blasphemous. He is the all-wise God. And so really all that is left is the second conclusion. He really does love us. His banner over us is love. He loves us as the precious and holy Bride purchased with His blood and washed clean in His baptismal water, the true water of purification. He loves us to death, literally… His death on the cross. He pours out the wine of His blood for the life of the world,[1] for our life, eternal and abundant. Here, too, love creates its object. There is nothing in us that is loveable. We simply are not loveable in and of ourselves. God loves us by grace, by His own gracious decision, and in mercy, redeems us, by the blood of Christ, and bestows on us every grace and blessing.

God comes to us this morning in the flesh, the flesh of Jesus Christ. He comes among us at this foretaste of the eternal wedding feast to come and miraculously gives us wine, the wine of His blood, the same blood shed on the cross for our forgiveness, life, and salvation. He fills our cup so that it runneth over. Nothing but the best from our Lord, His true blood in the chalice, His true body under the bread, the price of our redemption, and He gives it to us to eat and to drink. He bids us feast upon Him. It may sound unbelievable, unreasonable, perhaps even ridiculous, just like the servants in our text probably thought Jesus was off His rocker when He commanded them to serve water from the jars to the master of the feast. But as Mary said to them, so she says to us: “Do whatever he tells you.” And what He tells you is, “Take, eat, this is my body, given for you. Do this, in remembrance of me. Take, drink, this is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this, often, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Do whatever He tells you. Because He is your Bridegroom. He loves you with an everlasting love. He has bought you back from your unfaithfulness, bought you at the price of His life, suffered all for you, even hell, died for you, is risen for you, lives and reigns for you. He gives you nothing but the very best. And He spreads a Table before you, a feast of rich food, a feast of well aged wine, the Supper of His body and blood. This feast will not run out. Of this feast there is no end. Your Lord, Your Bridegroom, makes all things ready. Here there is celebration and great joy. Come, Bride of Christ, adorned with His holiness, to the nuptial feast. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Rev. William Cwirla,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Baptism of Our Lord (C)
January 10, 2009
Text: Luke 3:15-22

Beloved in the Lord, we have two Baptisms to consider this morning: Our Lord Christ’s Baptism by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, and our own Baptism. The two go hand in hand, for our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized into us, that we might be baptized into Him. He was baptized into our sin, that we might be baptized into His righteousness. He was baptized into our death, that we might be baptized into His death. And we are baptized into His resurrection, that we may live a new life now, and so also that our bodies may be sealed for our own bodily resurrection from the dead on the Last Day. We are baptized into the beloved Son of God, that we might be beloved children of the heavenly Father, “God’s own child, I gladly say it!” We are baptized into the One anointed with the Holy Spirit, that we might receive that same Spirit through water and the Word.

Why is Jesus baptized in the first place? John is baptizing for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus has no sin of which to be repentant and forgiven. He is the perfect Son of God made flesh as the Son of Mary. In Matthew’s account of this Baptism, John even says as much, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:14; ESV). Jesus answers, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). Jesus is not baptized for His own sin. He has none. He is baptized to soak up the sins of the world into Himself so that He can be our substitute and pay for our sin. Here He stands, the all-righteous Son of God, in the filthy waters of the Jordan River, the river in which countless sinners had just been baptized by John, and He soaks it all up. He is not baptized for Himself. He is Baptized for us, and for our salvation. Jesus is baptized, and notice what happens according to our text: Heaven is opened (Luke 3:21). What has been closed to sinners, closed to the fallen world is now open wide, because Jesus is baptized. And it is a Trinitarian act. God the Son stands in the dirty river, baptized into our sin and death to save us from sin and death. The heavens are opened and the Spirit descends as a dove, anointing Jesus for His saving mission and strengthening Him for the same. And the voice of the Father declares the divinity of the Son, and His love and pleasure in His Son and His work: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v. 22). Heaven is open. We have access to God through Christ. God has come in the flesh to us poor sinners to save us and give heaven as our inheritance.

And this is why our own Baptism into Christ is so precious. Jesus is baptized into us, that we might be baptized into Him. When our Lord Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, He “sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin” (Luther’s flood prayer, LSB p. 269). And so each one of us enters and is united to the Body of Christ, the holy Church, through the water in the font. It is not just ordinary water, but the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word, His Name, the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). And so it becomes a cleansing flood by which all sin is washed away, faith is created, newness of life is granted, the Holy Spirit is bestowed, and the seal of God’s Name is placed upon the Baptized. United to Jesus Christ, put to death with Christ, drowned in the water, the Baptized also rises with Christ to righteousness before God and newness of life now, and the promise of physical resurrection to come. Here the Baptized takes up the cross and follows Jesus. Here the Baptized enters upon a life of daily death and resurrection, the crucifixion of the old sinful flesh, the daily drowning and death of the Old Adam that the new man may daily emerge and arise to live before God, and the daily battle with sin, against temptation, against the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.

In some ways Baptism makes life in this fallen world even more difficult, because in marking one as redeemed by Christ, the Crucified, we also mark that one for the devil’s attacks. And yet, Baptism is commanded by our Lord, with His certain promise of salvation. “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare” (Luther’s Small Catechism).[1] “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Baptism… now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21). “(H)e saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7). Baptism is a great exchange. Jesus gets all our sin and death and we get all His righteousness and life. Thus we have salvation and eternal life. It is a blessed exchange for us. Now when God looks at us, He sees only the righteousness and perfection of His Son.

This does not by any means give us an excuse to sin, however. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). Don’t you know you are dead to sin? Don’t you know you have been freed by death from slavery to your old taskmaster, to the sin that once held you in bondage? You have been raised to new life to serve a new Master, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s what your Baptism means. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life… So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 3-4, 11). We so easily fall into the trap of thinking that since God forgives us and loves us and we are His own in Baptism (which is most certainly true!), we might as well sin as much as we want. We’re covered. But that is not how Christians ought to live. That is not the baptismal life. And we have manifold warnings from John in our text about a Baptism with fire and the winnowing fork of the Lord: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Luke 3:17). Unrepentant sinners are the chaff that will be burned. The Lord’s “wrath is quickly kindled,” as we sang in the Introit (Ps. 2:12). That wrath is an all-consuming fire. But in our Baptism, we “take refuge in him,” even Jesus Christ our Lord. For in Him, all our sins are already punished. God does not excuse sin. He does not wink at sin. He does not sweep sin under the rug. In no sense is it “okay” to sin because God will forgive you. God punishes every one of your sins. But He punishes them in the flesh of Jesus Christ on the cross. And Baptized into Him, His suffering is your suffering, His death is your death, and you take refuge in His wounds. Therefore He says to you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Is. 43:1, 2). Because Jesus walks through the fire for you! He undergoes the Baptism of fire in your place! He takes the full force of the wrath of God so that every one of your sins is dealt with by our righteous and holy God in Him! When He cries, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46), He does so in your place, suffers hell for your sake, is forsaken of the Father so that you don’t have to be. God’s beloved Son is forsaken of God on the cross, so that you can be His dearly loved child.

And so also Christ is risen. God has accepted His sacrifice for us. God is well-pleased with His beloved Son. And so just as His death is our death by virtue of our Baptism into Him, so also His resurrection is our own resurrection, a spiritual resurrection now, and a physical resurrection on the Last Day. “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5). Beloved in the Lord, this morning we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord in the Jordan, God in the flesh, and so also we celebrate our Baptism into Christ. What a great comfort in the midst of temptation and trial, sin and death, and every distress, that we can say to ourselves, “I am baptized into Christ!” That bold assertion drives the devil far from us and soothes our harrowed souls. Baptism is not just something that happened to you one day in the past, but your continual reality in Christ. So you can live each day in this reality. You do not need to fear. He has redeemed you. He has called you by name, His Name, in Holy Baptism. You are His, His own dear child. You are engraved on the palm of His crucified hand. Therefore Beloved, rejoice. Come as the Body of Christ, the holy Church, Baptized into Christ, to the Supper of His body and blood. You can only enter through the font. And trace once again upon yourself His sign, that with which you were marked as one redeemed by Christ the Crucified, as you speak His Name given you in Baptism, the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] St. Louis: Concordia, 1986.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Spiritual Weariness

Pastor’s Window for January 2010
Spiritual Weariness

Beloved in the Lord,

It happens to all of us at some time or another, that we get spiritually weary. I’m defining spiritual weariness rather broadly, to include all those times when, to one degree or another, our devotional and prayer discipline becomes dry or tedious, perhaps we become lazy, church attendance becomes a chore rather than a joy, and we fail to heed the exhortation of St. Paul, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16; ESV). Ultimately sin and the weakness of our fallen flesh is the cause of our weariness. Sometimes these bouts of weariness are more subtle. Other times they can be so fierce that we see the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16) for what they are. In each case we are reminded that our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

It seems like the devil steps up his attacks around Christmas time. I think there are two reasons for this. First, Christmas offers him a unique opportunity. Everyone has impossible expectations for Christmas. We think the holly and the ivy, the tinsel and the perfectly wrapped Christmas presents, the trimmed tree, the yule log, and the Christmas goose will automatically lead to world peace, or at least peace among the family members, and to true happiness. It never does. And the devil has opportunity here both to direct our attention away from Jesus and to all the trappings of the holiday, and then to bitterly disappoint us when everything doesn’t turn out perfectly. He leads us to forget that the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, is the real gift of Christmas, and that the forgiveness of sins He has won for us gives us peace with God and eternal life in heaven.

Second, the devil steps up his attacks around Christmas time because Christmas is a great challenge to him. Even rank unbelievers sing about the birth of Jesus Christ this time of year. Turn on your radio, and you’ll hear any number of secular musicians singing about salvation in Christ. It’s a great irony, and I think it must be very frustrating for the devil and his demons.

But whenever such weariness sets in, whenever the devil attacks, Christians must be aware of the unseen, spiritual forces that are at work, and be equipped to weather the storm. What should you do when you are spiritually weary? The easiest thing is to not go to church, not receive Christ’s gifts in the Sacrament, not read the Scriptures, not pray. But then the devil has you right where he wants you, with your defenses down. No, when you are spiritually weary, that is precisely the time you should be in church, you should read the Scriptures, you should pray. Don’t be afraid to use the resources of the Christian Church, like prayer books and particularly your hymnal. Treasury of Daily Prayer by CPH, as well as The Lutheran Study Bible are great resources. Pray the Psalms especially, and the Lord’s Prayer, and read your Catechism. And remember that the Lord is faithful even when you are not. He allows you to go through these times of spiritual weariness and assault so that you don’t rely on yourself, or even on your own spirituality or devotional life. He wants you to rely on Him alone. For He alone is able to keep you from stumbling, to preserve you when you are under attack, and keep you in the one true faith. The devil is too strong for you. The devil is stronger than the whole world. But God is infinitely stronger than the devil and all his demons combined.

When you are spiritually weary or under the crafts and assaults of the devil, remember the beloved hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” (LSB 656). “With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever” (v. 2). He holds you forever. He holds you safely in the palms of His pierced hands. So don’t give in to the weariness. Behold your Lord Jesus Christ, the crucified. Hide yourself in His wounds. Turn to Him. He will help you. He will sustain you. And though you have to pass through trials and tribulations, now, for a little while, remember: “Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth” (v. 4).

Christ our Lord strengthen and keep you all,
Pastor Krenz

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Epiphany of Our Lord

The Epiphany of Our Lord
January 6, 2009
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

Epiphany, the festival for which this congregation was named, a word meaning “revelation” or “manifestation.” The Festival of Epiphany is the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of the Season of Epiphany, a season for meditating upon the revelation or manifestation of Jesus Christ as God in human flesh, as our Savior, Messiah not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles. And so this Epiphany Season we will hear about the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River and the appearance of all three Persons of the Holy Trinity, Jesus turning water into wine, His miraculous healings and casting out of demons, the miraculous catch of fish coupled with the calling of the apostles to catch men, and the Transfiguration of our Lord, all of which serve as evidence that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, is God incarnate. This evening we commemorate the visit of the Magi, the wise men from the East, who followed the star to find the One born King of the Jews.

Isn’t it amazing, these Magi travel all this way because of an obscure Hebrew Scripture and a strange star just to see a little boy? The Magi were probably from Babylon or Persia, modern-day Iraq and Iran, and they were undoubtedly familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures because of the Jews who had lived among them during the great Babylonian exile. The prophet Daniel and his colleagues, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all Magi. We don’t know the number of the Magi who came to see Jesus. Many people think there were three of them because of the three gifts, but the Scriptures do not give us a number. Magi were learned men of the orient: astrologers, philosophers, advisers to kings, thus we call them the “wise men.” And these wise men, observing the heavens, as is their habit, behold a strange star, and they call to mind the words of Balaam in Numbers 24: “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth” (v. 17; ESV). This is a prophecy of Messiah. And so these wise men pack up and go. They come to the only conclusion wisdom allows them: Messiah has come to Israel. Let us go and see this great sight. Let us go and worship Him who is born King of the Jews!

Behold how these wise men seek Divine Wisdom enfleshed! It is this, and this alone, that truly indicates the wisdom of the wise men, that they seek the Wisdom of God who in mercy became a man, a little child, Jesus of Nazareth. They travel across the desert to behold Him, to worship Him, to bring Him gifts: Gold, the gift of royalty; frankincense, an incense offering to the God of Israel; and myrrh, a prophetic gift, in preparation for His burial. We see here that the real wisdom of the wise men is faith in the Son of God and Savior of the world. To be wise is to believe in Jesus Christ as your King, your God, and the Savior who lays down His life for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Naturally, they seek Him who is born King of the Jews in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. And here in Jerusalem, we find a very different wisdom at work in Herod and in the chief priests and scribes, the wisdom of the world. This is a wisdom that sees Jesus as a threat, that fears Jesus, that does not seek Jesus to worship Him, but only to murder Him, and to snuff out the Word concerning Him. Upon hearing the news from the Magi that Messiah is born, Herod is troubled, and all Jerusalem with him (Matt. 2:3). Herod believes the Messiah presents a threat to his royal throne, and Jerusalem knows that tyrannous Herod will perpetrate horrendous violence to stamp out that threat. The chief priests and scribes know from the sacred Scriptures where Messiah is to be born, “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they say, “for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (vv. 5-6). Yet the chief priests and scribes do not follow the Magi to Bethlehem to worship the Christ. Already the Jewish elite sees Jesus as a threat to the religious customs and political structure of temple and synagogue. It is a foreshadowing of the accusations they would make against Jesus throughout His life, which would finally lead to His arrest and crucifixion. And certainly the chief priests and scribes must also fear Herod, and they clearly fear Herod more than they fear God.

And so it is only the Magi who follow the star sent from God to the place where Jesus is, in a house, with Mary and Joseph, in the sleepy little town of Bethlehem. They come and they fall down before Him and worship Him and present their gifts to Him. Faith verses unbelief. Faith falls down before Jesus and confesses Him to be King, God, and Savior. Unbelief fears and avoids and deceives and murders.

Beloved members of Epiphany Lutheran Church: This evening Jesus is here, God in the flesh, God in Man made manifest, your King, your God, your Savior. You know that the wisdom of the world would have you turn away from Him in unbelief. You know that the wisdom of the world is to mock Jesus and His Word and His Christians. You know that the wisdom of the world is to fear Jesus as a threat. As insane as it may sound, the world fears the Prince of Peace as a threat to liberty, to religious freedom, to government, even to the safety of the citizens. Have you ever heard the ridiculous assertion that religion, and Christianity in particular, is the root cause of terrorism and hatred in the world? But the wisdom of the world is not always as explicit as that. The wisdom of the world would also convince you that you don’t have time for Jesus, you don’t have time to be in church, to fall down before the King and worship Him. The wisdom of the world would convince you that Jesus is a threat to your pleasure and happiness. He will call upon you to give up your favorite sins, to repent, which is quite true. The wisdom of the world would convince you that Jesus doesn’t want you to have any fun or enjoy anything, which is not at all true. The wisdom of the world will do anything to convince you not to seek this Jesus. And so you see the wisdom of the world for what it is: the devil’s lies!

Beloved in the Lord, this evening Jesus is here, God in the flesh, God in Man made manifest, your King, your God, your Savior. Faith falls down before Him in worship and gives its gifts, it is true. But more importantly, faith receives the gifts of the King, of God, of our Savior Jesus Christ. For while the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, the primary gift given that night was the gift of Jesus Christ to the Magi. It is the gift of a Savior. It is the gift of forgiveness through His blood. It is the gift of eternal life and salvation. And so tonight, here, in this place called Epiphany Lutheran Church, faith may very well fall down and worship and confess and give its gifts. But the more important thing is that faith here tonight receives the gifts of Christ. Faith falls down before this gift, this Savior, and receives all good from Him. Faith is true wisdom, because it receives the Wisdom of God made flesh. Faith believes the Scriptures concerning Him. Faith clings to Him alone. Faith receives the fruits of His cross, His true body pierced, His true blood shed, under bread and wine. Faith receives forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.

Epiphany is the festival of light, because it reveals clearly our Lord Jesus Christ as God in human flesh come to save us from our sins. Beloved in the Lord, bask in that Epiphany light. For here is your redemption. Here is your abiding peace. Here is your enduring joy. Divine Wisdom is here in the flesh. May we, in wisdom, receive Him and delight in His gifts. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Second Sunday after Christmas

Second Sunday after Christmas (C)
January 3, 2010
Text: Luke 2:40-50

Beloved in the Lord, Divine Wisdom incarnate enters His Temple, the Word made flesh, the Son of God, the Son of the Virgin. We behold here the mystery of the incarnation: God, the Son of God, who is the personification of Wisdom itself, grows in stature and wisdom and in favor with God and with man (Luke 2:40, 52). As God, He cannot grow, for He already is the pinnacle of all perfection. But as Man, in the state of humiliation, when He does not always and fully use His divine power, our Lord Jesus grows. He grows physically. He grows mentally and emotionally and spiritually. Thus the great paradox: He who is Wisdom grows in Wisdom. He who is God grows in the favor of God. And so it is that a twelve-year-old Jesus enters the Jerusalem Temple, His heavenly Father’s house, His own house in fact. Our true Passover Lamb comes to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. He enters the Temple and sits at the feet of the great teachers of Israel, this twelve-year-old boy in preparation for His bar mitzvah. He seeks to learn, but in fact He teaches the teachers. He has more understanding than all His teachers, for the testimonies of the Lord are all His meditation (Ps. 119:99). All who hear this boy are “amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47; ESV). He is already about His Father’s business, teaching the Scriptures to the teachers of the Scriptures, the Scriptures concerning Himself.

And so Divine Wisdom incarnate enters this house this morning, His Father’s house, His own house. He is the Temple of God, for the dwelling place of God with men is the flesh of Jesus Christ. And He has come to teach us, beloved. He has come to teach us the Scriptures concerning Himself. He has come to impart of Himself, to impart Divine Wisdom to us. He breathes it into us as the breath of life by His Holy Spirit through Scripture and liturgy and preaching and Sacrament. As we heard in our Catechism study this morning, through these means of grace, through the Gospel, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. Thus we ought to receive Divine Wisdom with great eagerness. We ought to listen with open ears and open hearts to the gracious Word our Lord here imparts along with His Spirit. We ought to be willing to pay any price, devote all our time and energy, travel from the farthest reaches, to hear this blessed Gospel of Wisdom. The party from Nazareth that included Jesus and His parents traveled many miles, on foot, over several days, to Jerusalem for the Feast, to participate in the Temple liturgy and eat the sacrificial meal. Some of us travel up to 20 or 30 or 40 minutes to hear and receive Christ’s gifts in the liturgy and Sacrament here in this place. And we don’t have to walk the whole way, like the pilgrims of old. We get to drive. What great grace God has given us that His Word and body and blood are so readily available.

Yes, Divine Wisdom is here, in the flesh. Jesus is here. He is here to teach us and to forgive our sins and to give us eternal life. Like Solomon in our Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 3:4-15), we ought to ask for nothing else than this Divine Wisdom: not riches, not power, not long life, not fame and honor, but let Divine Wisdom be enough for us. Let us seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, freely given to us by faith in Christ, and the rest will be added unto us. Yet we have this fallen, sinful human flesh always to contend with. And here is the rub, here is what continually prevents us from asking for and receiving Divine Wisdom: The Wisdom of God is foolishness to natural man! Here is what St. Paul says about the Wisdom of God: “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:22-25). The Wisdom of God is the Wisdom of the cross. The power of God is the weakness and suffering and humiliation of Christ crucified. And this is utter foolishness to our fallen human minds. We think we know better than God. We don’t want the God of the cross. We want the God of glory who smites His enemies and rewards His faithful with riches and power and honor and fame. We want a God who comes into His Temple as a triumphant King, not a God who allows the Temple of His body to be destroyed on Golgotha’s cross. But this is how the all-wise God operates in the world: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (vv. 27-31).

Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, is our wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Yet we have so much trouble believing this because of this sinful flesh and its false expectations of who Christ is and what we think He should do. And then there is the peer pressure of the world that mocks our Lord Jesus Christ and His Christians as foolish and naïve. Even Mary and Joseph have a hard time believing the Wisdom of God. They thought they had lost their Son in Jerusalem. They should have known right where He would be. They should have known He would be in His Father’s house, about His Father’s business. Their problem is that they regard Jesus according to the wisdom of the world, and not the Wisdom of God. They regard Him as a simple twelve-year-old boy, not the Son of God. They should have trusted Him. And they should have sought Him in His Father’s house. And if we wish to be wise, we should seek Him in His Father’s house, too. For He has promised always to be here, in this house, about His Father’s business, teaching the Word of life, breathing out His good Spirit, imparting divine wisdom, forgiving sins.

Our Lord is ever about His Father’s business. That is what Mary and Joseph fail to understand. And we fail to understand it as well. He is always doing the work of our salvation. That is His Father’s business. The salvation of the world! He passes through all the stages of life as our substitute. He is conceived and born for us, to become one with us and to stand in for us before the Father. He grows in stature and wisdom for us. He is a twelve-year-old child for us. He perfectly fulfills the Law in our place. Our text even tells us how He fulfills the Fourth Commandment for us, to honor father and mother, for He is obedient, submissive, to Mary and Joseph according to our Gospel lesson (Luke 2:51). This should be a great comfort to all of us who have ever sinned against our parents. God counts Jesus’ obedience as our own! He fulfills the whole Law of God for us, every one of the Ten Commandments. And then He pays for our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross. “In him,” writes St. Paul, “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). Approximately 21 years later, our Lord comes into Jerusalem again for the Passover Feast, this time to die. He is arrested, beaten, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, nailed to the tree, and lifted up. Behold your God, naked, bleeding, dying for the sin of the world. Behold His side as it pours forth blood and water for the life of the Church. Hear His last and bitter cry as He gives up His Spirit. Behold Divine Wisdom. Behold Divine glory. Behold the culmination of Christmas. And in this way, He is victorious over sin and death and Satan and hell. For on the third day, God raises Him from the dead, the sure seal that Jesus’ sacrifice is accepted by God for our atonement. Behold how the Wisdom of God, which is foolishness to the world, accomplishes the salvation of mankind. And God exalts that Wisdom, Wisdom incarnate, to the right hand of the throne of God where Wisdom rules all things for the good of His people and is ever present with His Church in His Word and Sacrament.

We cannot understand this in our flesh, fallen as we are. But by the Spirit of God, by which our Lord imparts Wisdom, we can believe it, trust it, by faith, not by sight. And so He makes a beginning of Wisdom in us. We begin to understand, through the school of experience, enlightened by the Word of Christ, that the grace of the Lord Jesus is sufficient for us, for His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), the weakness of the cross. Do you want to be truly wise? Behold the death of God on the cross. The fear of this Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). And receive this crucified God now risen from the dead here, in His Father’s house, where He has promised to be for you. Seek Him here. He will always be found here. And when you find Him, you will realize that it is, in fact, Divine Wisdom incarnate who found you. Beloved in the Lord, merry Christmas. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.